NAACP Connecting Civil Rights Legacies of the Past and Present With ‘I AM’ Campaign
They came by the thousands—upwards of 10,000, to be exact. NAACP leadership, current and former faith, labor and Civil Rights leaders, branch and youth members, activists, supporters and citizens alike. They came to Memphis, Tennessee by bus, plane, train, automobile and other means, committed to fittingly honor the sacrifice of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and salute the dignity of the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers, each of which ascended to history in that city five decades ago.
Last week marked the solemn 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination in 1968, as well as the historic Memphis Sanitation Worker’s Strike. Beginning April 2nd through 4th, these groups and more all came together to successfully participate in the I AM 2018, a campaign and series of activities conceived not just to commemorate watershed events, but also to connect the legacies of King and the strikers and to train and mobilize next generation activists to affect change in their communities.
With their theme drawn from the strikers’ iconic slogan, “I AM A MAN,” the campaign’s programming lineup included a reverent moment of silence, a townhall meeting, impactful panel discussions, powerful orations, youth engagement, HBCU programming and a march and rally. “At I AM 2018, our vision and mission were to lock arms with other groups and organizations of like mind and spirit, while lifting up Dr. King’s legacy at a critical time in our nation,” stated Derrick Johnson, NAACP president and CEO. “African Americans have always been the conscience of this country, and we’re humbled to have helped connect the movements of the past with those of today, while emphasizing once again the power we all wield over our future with our right and responsibility to vote.”
Among the luminaries on-hand at the I AM events were civil rights leaders of the past, present and future, including Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of NAACP, Tiffany Dena Loftin, National Director, NAACP Youth and College Division, Martin Luther King, III and Bernice King, the Revs. Jesse Jackson, Sr., Al Sharpton and William Barber II, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, Dr. Vanita Gupta, actor-artist Common and numerous others from the arenas of media and entertainment.
I AM 2018 attendees learned effective organizing, community activism and tactics for leveraging strategic partnerships. The conveners envisioned helping to re-build and reinvigorate a movement of focused, dedicated activists who will continue the unrealized work of Dr. King’s dream, while waking our youth to address many of the issues now facing the nation.